Whistler Film Festival 2019: Kristina Mileska on THE BEAR AND THE BEEKEEPER

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In Kristina Mileska’s The Bear and the Beekeeper, an ageing beekeeper tries to keep a pesky predator away from his beehives in order to keep the memory of his loved one alive. The dialogue-free short The Bear and the Beekeeper explores themes of loss and memory with a sense of whimsy and lightness.
The short film has been nominated for an. AWFJ EDA Award at Whistler Film Festival 2019. The EDA Awards at Whistler a film festival will be announced on December 10, 2019.

Jennifer Merin: What your film is about — both in story and theme?

Mileska: The Bear and the Beekeeper is about an elderly man trying to preserve the memory of someone that has passed. The film explores themes of loss and remembrance with a light-hearted whimsy.

Merin: How is your film stylistically distinctive?

Mileska: The Bear and the Beekeeper is entirely dialogue-free and relies heavily on it’s visuals. I decided to keep the script brief and opted to storyboard the short with my cinematographer Andy Kloske during the writing process in order to to get a better idea of exactly what was needed to drive the plot forward. In the absence of dialogue, music functions as a central character in the film and is used to help underline the emotional core of the story.

Merin: How and why did you encounter and commit to the subject/theme of your film and to the main characters in it?

Mileska: A few years ago, I read a brief news article about a beekeeper who used an unusual method to keep a bear away from his beehives. The way his wit and humour was described reminded me of my grandfather which made the story very personal to me. It brought up my own feelings of memory and loss that I connect to my grandparents.

Merin: What did you learn about the subject/theme from making the film?

Mileska: Most of my films to date have dealt with the theme of loss, but usually from the perspective of a young protagonist coming of age or losing their innocence. While this film examines that common theme, it was a new challenge for me to explore it through the lens of sentimentality and memory.

Merin: What did you learn about filmmaking from making the film?

Mileska: Like with making any film there is never enough time or money. While this one felt like a scramble to make as we were at the mercy of a very tight honey harvesting schedule, I learned that any obstacle can be overcome when there’s a strong creative drive. I also learned to trust my team wholeheartedly. I had previously worked with some of the key crew including our lead actor Peter Higginson, but we added some new members to our team that brought their own unique talents to the project.

6Merin: What were your biggest challenges in making the film?

Mileska: Because the story relied so heavily on the visuals, we spent a lot of time prepping and storyboarding. However, nothing could have prepared us for the unforeseen weather conditions and the unpredictability of working with live bees on a tight shooting schedule. We often needed to quickly pivot and make changes on the spot which kept us on our toes. Ultimately, I think that flexibility comes through in some of the scenes and adds a layer of spontaneity to the film.

Merin: Do you think that being female gave you a distinct perspective and/or way of handling the filmmaking process?

Mileska: I think being female inherently affects everything I do. As a female filmmaker, I do feel a responsibility in creating work that places women at the forefront, whether that is in front of the camera or behind it. With this film, having a male protagonist felt like the most authentic way for me to tell this story as he is inspired by my grandfather.

Merin: What are your plans for the future?

Mileska: I’m currently working on developing my first feature!

Merin Who are the filmmakers whose work has inspired/influenced your own?

Mileska: I’ve always loved filmmakers like Guillermo Del Toro and Taika Waititi who create films that are imaginative and entertaining, while still being thought provoking. Recently, I’ve been inspired by Canadian filmmakers like Kazik Rawadanski and Heather Young for their ability to consistently make great shorts and features in their own distinct style.

Merin: What advice do you have for other female Filmmakers who are trying to make their way through a still male-dominated industry?

Mileska: I would say find your key collaborators. There are so many talented women in the industry who are open to collaborating and sharing their time and resources. Regardless of gender, finding a group of people that believe in you and the work you are creating is so important in staying motivated and inspired.

Kristina Mileska is a Toronto-based writer and director who focuses on creating visual stories with minimal dialogue. She graduated from York University’s Film Production program in 2015. Her thesis film Asteroid was awarded NSI’s Fearless Filmmaker Award and the People’s Choice Award at the 2015 Air Canada EnRoute Film Festival. In 2017, she wrote and directed a micro short film titled Afloat (2017) which went on to screen at TIFF Kids in 2018. The Bear and the Beekeeper (2019) is her latest work.

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